Director/Screenplay – Emil Hyde, Producers – Emil Hyde & Dan Kiggins, Photography – Phil O’Neil, Music – Karen Sandvoss, Special Effects – Jen Hiltwein & Matt Stratton, Makeup Effects – Cirque du Face FX (Supervisor – Kristin LeClair). Production Company – Massive Ego Productions
Derek Dziak (Tyler Czernecki), Rom Barkhordar (Rabisu), Michelle Courvais (Amy Murphy), Erin Myers (Donna), Rob McLean (Warren), Lori Myers (Lamashtu), Brian Arnidei (Gary Murphy), Ezekiel Brown (Detective Rosen), Kurt Ehrmann (Detective Lopez), Breon Bliss (Reggie), Tim Abel (Dmitri), Carolyn Klein (Caitlin), Weston Davis (Dave)
Tyler Czernecki is the landlord of a house that he and his sister Amy jointly own. However, the house is plagued by two demons Lamashtu and Rabisu who make Tyler find tenants for them to devour. The police suspect Tyler of foul play but are unable to find any proof – but then the two investigating detectives are devoured by the demons after breaking in to search the house. Next, Donna takes a room at the house, seeking to escape from an abusive husband. She is pregnant and wants to have an abortion. The demons imprison her in the room inside a forcefield, wanting to claim the child when it is born. Meanwhile, Amy, a police officer in everyday life, kills an annoying vampire. The vampire sire Dmitri determines that she must pay for this and puts the bite on her partner Warren with whom she is having an affair. Warren and the other vampires surround her house to force her to come over and join their side.
The Landlord is a low-budget independently made film that was shot in Chicago. Director, writer and co-producer Emil Hyde is, according to his own website bio, a musician with the “hip-hop/heavy metal/country/disco/polka/cabaret act” (!?!) The Mystechs. Hyde had previously directed videos for The Mystechs and The Landlord represents his debut as feature filmmaker.
The Landlord is a horror comedy, a genre that has not always managed to successfully coexist in tandem. I am not 100% sure if The Landlord does either but it comes with an undeniably goofy appeal. The essential idea of the film has been to take various horror movie staples – demons, the occult, vampires – and to throw then into incongruous modern-day surrounds. The film gets its greatest mileage out of Rom Barkhordar’s Rabisu who demonstrates a preference for Hawaiian and polo shirts and is seen watching infomercials (and later making purchases using Derek Dziak’s credit card), or nonchalantly asks for spoons to eat brains out of a severed skull and compares slaughtered body scenes to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-15). Sometimes the humour comes out as a little too silly – like Rom Barkhordar playing a game of Charades in order to deliver an incantation at one point. Where Emil Hyde finds his feet is in the dry humour and offhand gags in the background. Particularly good is the scene where Erin Myers attempts to sign in at a fleapit hotel where the receptionist assumes she wants to rent by the hour as in the background a junkie keeps trying to steal the guest food and a hooker and her client come in to get a room, before the manager pulls a gun on the junkie just as a stick-up artist come in the door. The marshalling of all the elements in the scene and the tone of deadpan hysteria is conducted with a considerable degree of witty sophistication.
Despite its low budget, The Landlord is made with a professional finish. There are some fine performances, in particular from Kurt Ehrmann as the detective harassing Derek Dziak and especially from Michelle Courvais as Dziak’s policewoman sister. Courvais, a theatrical actress in Chicago, plays with considerable determination and strength that marks her as having a great deal of potential ahead of her.
The film comes with some generally worthwhile makeup effects. There is a reasonable level of occasionally fake looking, mostly convincing gore. The makeup effects on the demons is good, although noticeably these only finish about the neckline. The design of Rom Barkhordar’s Rabisu makeup also kept making me think of the demonic nightclub MC in tv’s Angel (1999-2004). The psychedelic visual effects are colourfully accomplished, apart from a weak scene depicting the house blowing up at the end.